MassDOT project manager Doug Johnson was at Monday’s Harbor View Neighborhood Association meeting to discuss the ongoing study the state’s transportation department is conducting to assess the potential uses of the MassDOT and MBTA rail parcels located between Route 1A and the Chelsea Creek.
The study will also evaluate the Route 1A corridor between Bell Circle in Revere and Day Square in East Boston and identify opportunities to improve connections for people walking, biking and taking transit as well as address safety issues and potential impacts of climate change.
“So the reason why we’re really doing this study is because there’s a piece of land that the MBTA owns that’s an inactive railway corridor,” said Johnson. “It’s basically on the bank of the Chelsea Creek in East Boston and into Revere. Back in 2019, before the pandemic, a private property owner approached the MBTA and MassDOT about leasing the rail corridor and using it for a different use. So we received feedback from the community and people asked us to do a planning study to figure out what should actually be done with that corridor.”
The private property owner Johnson was referring to is owner of Cargo Ventures Jacob Citrin. Citrin tried to acquire the unused stretch of land that once served as a railroad along the Chelsea Creek behind several current freight forwarding and rental car facilities. The state put out an Invitation to Bid (ITB) for the land that runs parallel to McClellan Highway in the form of easements through the ITB process. Cargo Ventures was the only reported bidder.
However, a lack of community process had elected officials, residents and neighborhood activists calling for a more transparent process.
In July 2019 the MBTA’s Fiscal Management Control Board Chair Joe Aiello said the state was shelving the ITB process until a review of the corridor and alternative uses for the land could be explored. At a Control Board meeting Monday Aiello said the state would look at possibly using the easements to improve mobility in and around Eastie.
With the ITB shelved, Citrin kicked off the community process to sell his ideas for redeveloping the stretch of industrial land on McClellan Highway along the Chelsea Creek his company owns. Citrin is still lobbying to gain access to the railway corridor. If the state did not pull the ITB, Cargo Ventures would have developed the land to give his company’s truck drivers direct access to Logan Airport via the Marty Coughlin Bypass Road along the Creek.
“That’s why we’re looking at it,” said Johnson. “We also understand that any kind of transportation use of that corridor is going to impact Route 1A and we know that Route 1A has a lot of problems and safety issues–not just traffic. So we’re looking at this rail corridor trying to figure out what to do with it, what the impacts would be on Route 1A and also how to address the issues that exist now.”
Johnson said the study would look at improving safety for people using all modes of transportation and enhance connectivity for users of all modes of transportation along and across the Route 1A corridor.
These improvements would look to balance local and regional transportation needs and improve the reliability of freight transportation.
There is also a focus on sustainability and climate change resiliency as part of the study with MassDOT looking to Improve air quality and access to public and natural resources as well as enhancing the resiliency of the corridor’s infrastructure and surrounding areas.
Johnson added that enhancing the corridor’s benefits while reducing the corridor’s burdens would be paramount given Eastie’s status as an Environmental Justice Community.
“Obviously, East Boston is an Environmental Justice Community and we want to understand how it has been impacted by the transportation infrastructure and how we could potentially address those impacts,” said Johnson.